Psoriasis Relief - General Tips
Psoriasis is an inflammatory systemic disease that manifests itself first through red scaly skin lesions. Any part of the body, including the scalp, heels, and nails can be affected by psoriasis. Over time, the disease tends to spread to the joints, causing psoriatic arthritis. Psoriasis is also linked to certain gastrointestinal issues.
A tailored and comprehensive medical treatment is necessary to manage and slow down the progression of the disease. In addition to your dermatologist’s and rheumatologist’s tips and recommendations, it’s just as important to develop your own ways of alleviating skin symptoms and preventing lesions from appearing on the skin. Here are a few tips to consider:
- Avoid scratching, damaging, or burning the skin. Psoriatic skin problems are your body’s abnormal response to trauma. Preventing sunburns, resisting scratching insect bites, and protecting your skin from mechanical rubbing from tight or itchy clothing all go a long way.
- Prevent dry skin. Dry conditions can make psoriasis worse because they deplete the skin from natural oils, causing microscopic cracks in the skin. These tiny cracks can then develop into psoriatic lesions; this is why psoriasis often forms on the driest parts of the skin, such as the elbows, heels, and knuckles. Body lotions, face creams, and ointments are the best way to prevent your skin from losing moisture.
- Avoid fragrances. The majority of creams, bath salts, and soaps contain perfume and dyes that can irritate the skin. This is crucial to know for psoriasis patients, whose skin is more sensitive to these irritants. Opt for fragrance-free, sensitive skin-friendly skincare products.
- Alcohol, stress, and smoking make psoriasis worse. Lifestyle changes and a healthy diet may not cure psoriasis, but they can reduce your symptoms quite a bit.
- Use sunscreen. Phototherapy is a very effective psoriasis treatment, but it’s not the same as tanning. Phototherapy is a controlled in-office treatment that uses a very specific UV wavelength on psoriasis lesions and eradicates them. On the other hand, Tanning can increase skin inflammation by making your skin red or sunburnt, which can lead to a flare-up.
Natural Treatments for Psoriasis
1. Aloe vera
Aloe vera juice, aloe vera gel, or any other moisturizer that contains at least 0.5% aloe extract reduces the redness, scaling, itching, and inflammation associated with psoriasis.
According to a 2010 study, aloe vera cream is a bit more effective at mediating psoriasis symptoms compared to a steroid cream containing 0.1% triamcinolone acetonide. A more recent study of 2,248 patients with mild and moderate psoriasis used a topical cream with 3% aloe vera. The patients saw a marked improvement in symptoms, including clearing skin plaques, compared to placebo.
The Mayo Clinic suggests that you apply an aloe cream on the affected area several times a day for a month to notice a significant improvement. So be consistent, and also avoid aloe vera tablets. The National Psoriasis Foundation states that there’s no evidence of oral aloe supplements being effective at alleviating symptoms.
2. Oatmeal baths
If you’re experiencing a flare-up of psoriasis on the body, and you experience a lot of itching and redness, a colloidal oatmeal bath can help soothe your skin. Colloidal oatmeal, or Avena sativa, is a powder made from finely ground and boiled oats. It’s scientifically proven to soothe irritated and inflamed skin.
Prepare an oatmeal bath by grinding up 1 cup of oats in a spice grinder until completely fine and smooth. Pour the powder into a warm (not hot) bath to prevent skin irritation. Sit back and soak in the bath for at least 10-15 minutes, submerging the affected areas in the water. For best results, repeat this for a few days in a row.
3. Oregon grape
Oregon grape is a somewhat confusing name. Even though the fruits of Mahonia aquifolium look like grapes, they have nothing in common with the popular fruit. It’s actually an evergreen shrub from the barberry family. That said, this invasive species does seem to have some use for humans. Research shows that creams containing 10% of Oregon grape extract have antimicrobial properties and reduce the inflammatory immune response in psoriasis patients.
A 2018 review article found that a cream containing Mahonia aquifolium is safe and effective for psoriasis. One particular study in 433 psoriasis patients found that symptoms either improved or disappeared after 12 weeks of daily treatment in over 80% of the participants. Other studies show similar results and also point out that the cream is well-tolerated.
4. Tea tree oil
As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, psoriasis can appear on the scalp. Unfortunately, treating scalp psoriasis can be tricky, especially if you have long hair. One general tip dermatologists recommend is to shampoo your hair and scalp as frequently as you can. This helps remove any built-up scales that can otherwise get out of control.
When it comes to natural remedies that can be used on the scalp, tea tree oil is the top recommendation. Tea tree oil is an essential oil made from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia plant, also known as Narrow-leaved paperbark. This essential oil has potent antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic qualities.
Even though most studies on tea tree for the scalp were done on a generally itchy scalp or dandruff, anecdotal evidence suggests that it may be also beneficial and taming the scales and itch in psoriasis patients. Many shampoos that contain tea tree oil are available on the market, but you can also just add a few drops of tea tree oil to your regular shampoo. When shampooing, leave the product on the scalp for 3-5 minutes to let the tea tree oil work.
Note: never use undiluted tea tree oil directly on the scalp - this can lead to skin burns.
Not all home treatments for psoriasis are topical. After all, psoriasis is a systemic inflammatory condition, and to treat the cause, you ought to strive for lowering the inflammation in your entire body. There are plenty of anti-inflammatory foods that can help you with that, but turmeric is definitely one of the most well-researched ingredients for psoriasis specifically.
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has a marked therapeutic effect in the treatment of psoriasis, according to a recent review article. Taking turmeric regularly can reduce psoriasis flare-ups. Turmeric supplements in capsules or tablets can help you get a steady dose of this spice every day, but you can also add it to your meals as a spice.
6. Bath Salts
If you don’t particularly enjoy oatmeal baths, you can try adding Epsom salt or Dead Sea salt to your bath. Like colloidal oatmeal, bath salts can help soothe the itch. In addition, salt baths were found to help remove the scales from affected areas. Soaking in this mixture for a minimum of 15 minutes is not only soothing to itchy skin but also helps to shed the scaly skin associated with psoriasis.
Dead Sea salt was found to be more beneficial than Epsom salt for reducing psoriasis symptoms in one clinical trial. Dead Sea salt is rich in minerals, which could account for this effect. For those of you wondering - yes, swimming in the sea can yield similar effects. When taking a salt bath, stay in the water for at least 15-20 minutes and repeat for a few days or even to see a real difference.
In the above-mentioned study, the participants took 20-minute baths for 3 weeks. Lastly, don’t forget to moisturize your skin right after the bath to seal the nutrients and moisture in the skin.
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